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The Homes of Zee

Character Check

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

With its tropical weather and laidback atmosphere, Cebu has become a melting pot of cultures and people—people from all over the world finding a place on the island to call their own. The result is a mismatch of cultures and personalities that, having come together, have created a character that has become, in a way, what Cebu is all about today.

Such is the character found in one family home in a village in Talamban, where various influences abound in a place that is somehow still rooted in Cebuano sensibilities. The husband and wife—French and Taiwanese, respectively—have fashioned a residence that embodies their characters, their travels around the world, and their current home country of choice.

“We moved to Cebu exactly 10 years ago,” says the husband. “We were seduced by the idea of a tropical city, where we could enjoy a pleasant lifestyle full of sunshine and still work and create fashion accessories for our export business.” Before 2002, the couple had been in the same business in Taiwan, where the weather can get too cool for comfort. Now, truly, the couple takes full advantage of Cebu’s weather, with a home that opens up seamlessly into the outdoors.

Sitting at the end of a sloping driveway, their one-storey house is large and airy, with rooms that seem to flow into each other. The entrance’s double doors open up into a large living room which, in turn, has French doors leading into the patio. Large entryways lead into the other parts of the house. “We tore down some walls,” says the wife as she motions toward the doorway to the bedrooms. The result is larger spaces and a breezier feel, perfect for the hot weather that prevails on the island.

In fact, the pool right outside the living room is another respite from Cebu’s sometimes stifling hot weather. The cool blue pops against the grass, and is punctuated by outdoor furniture and cozy lounge chairs from Coast Pacific that simply match the tropical atmosphere. “We definitely think that contact with nature is important [so] we arranged part of our house to be outdoors and virtually blending with the garden,” the couple agrees. The lush greenery includes orchids, palms, and other tropical plants that attract birds, dragonflies, and butterflies—creating a veritable “private little resort within the city.”

“We like our home to remain sober while avoiding any overstatement or mainstream fashion,” the husband says. “We like to maintain a certain coziness and peacefulness in it. The idea is for all of us to feel at ease the moment you pass [through] the door.” Venturing further indoors, one would see that the couple was able to do just that.

More than its structure, what makes the house so remarkable is that it belongs to people who appreciate art and culture—a fact that is realized even from the entrance: a figurine of the Buddha playfully displaying strands of colorful beads on one hand, is set on an antique wooden table, while the coffee table is decorated with flower arrangements done by the wife herself.

The living room is almost bursting with pieces that come with their own stories, like the lamps and statuettes that were hand-carried through various flights. Hanging over a console table is an old Chinese painting, which features an elderly man with extremely long fingernails. “It is a sign of wealth,” the wife explains. “Long fingernails mean that he doesn’t have to work.”

More of such paintings of Chinese ancestors may be found in the small study cum library, their subtle symbolisms embodying instant lessons on Chinese culture. Paper soles hint that the person was carried around everywhere, the animal painted on the robe signifies the person’s profession—these, for example, are insights that the residents don’t mind sharing with their guests.

Additions to the couple’s art collection are pieces from their daughter, who often takes to painting when in a melancholic mood. Featuring oddball characters in bold colors, the art gives a breath of modernity into the house. Its surreal shapes are the perfect foil to the classic shapes and neutral colors of the large antique furniture pieces, which come from around Asia but are sourced from a local supplier.

The study has doors that open up into the backyard, but it is filled with items that keep one’s attention inside the room. The paintings are there, as well as a traditional calligraphy set positioned on the wooden desk used regularly by the wife.

Interesting, too, is the dining room, which is anchored by a massive dining table made of two bancas (local outrigger boats) topped with heavy wood. As impossible to miss is the large, beautifully carved wooden arch—an intricate antique from India bought in Cebu. It stands over the doorway leading to the bedrooms.

The bedrooms are simple and reflective of the personalities of those who sleep in them. The daughter’s room is done in white, with colors popping from the artworks and accessories inside, many actually done by her. A Native American headdress sits on one table, and a papier-mâché cat, atop a bookshelf. Personal photographs and mementos are tacked to a corkboard nearby.

To keep the breezy feel of the space, the owners decided to tear down the wall and its small windows, and provided their daughter’s bedroom, instead, with a sliding door that leads into a small lawn. Then, a little farther off, either through the lawn or through the carpet-strewn hallway, is the master bedroom, its low bed and minimal furnishings giving off a really laidback vibe.

The various articles in the house and how they have been put together embody those who had selected them, and that’s exactly how the owners want it. “We didn’t get a designer,” says the wife. “A house should reflect the people living in it.” And that they have managed to achieve, and are planning to do again in their next home, which is currently under construction. The wife explains that everything in the new house is based on what they want, from the design and the layout to all other details—perfect for making sure that the house has spaces that can cater exactly to what the family needs.

That certainly is the case for their current home, where every room has the cozy feeling of being lived in. While some houses may have already become stiff in trying so hard to be impressive and stylish, this one is comfortable in just being a place where its residents can return to and feel completely at home. In fact, this house isn’t trying to be anything; it just is.

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Adrian Yu and Christine Cueto


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Trendy Renovation Ideas for your Home or Condo.

by Christa M. Cañizares IDr.

Part 1: Plan the Space to Suit your Needs.

A.)  Decide on a theme that reflects your personality. You can start by browsing through the internet and make a mood board on the colors, patterns, furniture and accessories that you love.

Create a mood board based your preferred colors, theme and style.

B.)  Work on your budget. This is essential to any renovation project. You can start with window shopping and scout for the key pieces and compare prices. You can also browse home products and purchase them online.

Do your homework online and window shop for key furniture pieces.

C.)  Invest in good and durable pieces.  Start with the big items that you often use. Your mattress tops the list as this is where you rest and recharge. Big items such as sofas and dining sets should be durable enough to withstand the everyday wear and tear. Choose a design that can easily go well with your space when you redecorate.

Choose a bed that works for you and becomes the focal point of your room.


IDr. Christa M. Cañizares, piid
Founding Member, Philippine Institute of Interior Designers – Cebu Chapter
Principal Designer, CMC Interior Design
Specializes in residential and commercial design.
A homebody and renovation aficionado.

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The Homes of Zee

THROWBACK THURSDAY. Discover Why This Airy, Modern Structure in Busay is Called the Sky House

The Sky House is a truly modern structure, with straight lines and boxy shapes.

Defying Gravity

YKC Premier’s first venture in Busay floats over a cliff and introduces a new brand of living in Cebu.

by Shari Quimbo photography Ezekiel Sullano


YKC Premier’s first venture couldn’t be more aptly named—Sky House was spot on—the airy, modern structure that juts out of a ridge in the Busay Highlands couldn’t be called anything else. The drive up the hill levels to a short plateau right before the entrance of the village, allowing ample time for everyone to look up and admire a house that seems to be in defiance of gravity.

“When I saw the property, it was everything you could ask for, and it’s in limited quantities so we wanted to maximize all its assets,” says Victor Consunji, one-third of the group behind the project. “The problem was the land is narrow. Since we have the experience and capability, we thought, why waste all the good things about this property by just building on the ridge? Why not build over the ridge?”

The house, as viewed from the street.

A textured carpet sets the living area apart from the dining, but the palette of grays and light-washed wood carries on even into the kitchen. The room is framed by two art pieces: a rattan sculpture called “Love Locks” by Selina Romualdez, and a painting from young artist Tzaddi Esguerra.

Slater Young and Stephen Ku complete YKC Premier, a group of men who have come together to redefine the art of living with a view in Cebu. “Slater and I have been friends for a while, and I bumped into him at a wedding here in Cebu,” Stephen recalls. “And then we were talking about businesses that we could do together, and he mentioned that he had a nice piece of land that he wanted to fix up. He showed me the place, and I thought it was beautiful. On the way back to Manila, I thought about Vic because I’m also working with him on his project in Manila called Mahogany Tree.”

The trio of Twist lamps over the dining table add an organic, but dramatic flair.

A sunroom off the deck is converted into a cozy breakfast nook, where another of Vito’s lamps adds a touch of whimsy.

Once the three sat down to discuss the venture, Victor was immediately interested and, in fact, already had a vision for the house’s design in his mind. The partnership played up each one’s individual strengths and backgrounds—Victor comes from the family behind DMCI Holdings Incorporated, which have constructed Philippine landmarks such as the Manila Hotel and Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort; Slater has a background in engineering and his family is also in construction; while Stephen is at the helm of Eventscape Manila and is behind some of the hottest restaurants and nightspots in the Philippines. “Victor would be the CEO, the visionary. His expertise is what we brought in here,” explains Slater. “And since I’m also in construction, I was sort of his eyes here in Cebu. I’d be the CTO, Chief Technical Officer, and Stephen would be the CMO, marketing.”

The Constella lights hang over the spiral staircase.

A pair of Vito Selma Paisley chairs are arranged in one corner of the master’s bedroom.

Although YKC Premier already has three strong personalities behind it, the guys decided to bring in another design visionary to help them complete the look of the Sky House. “The Sky House is unlike any other home in Cebu, and it was a designer’s dream to be part of it,” says Vito Selma, who brought in his iconic pieces, along with some custom-made furniture to complete the look of the Sky House. “Given its location and the abundance of windows, I wanted the home to feel just as light and airy—to simulate the feeling of flight. And to stay true to my brand, we just wanted to bring nature into the home, which can be seen in the materials, textures and colors in the space.”

The Arata chair serves as a sculptural accent in one of the bedrooms.

The look is relaxed but sophisticated, with many art pieces that Vito had commissioned especially for this project. “The installation in the entry is by me,” he says of the large textured slab with pieces of wood in different finishes scattered on it. “I made it in a way that when someone walks in the house, they see a reflection of that piece and its materials in other areas of the home.” Other notable pieces are in the living room: a large rattan sculpture of interlocking loops by Vito’s sister Selina Romualdez, and a long painting with strokes in various shades of gray by Tzaddi Esguerra. “I love working with her for all our projects,” Vito admits. “We tell her what colours to work with, and she makes the magic happen.”

With the house finished in just over a year, the guys are looking forward to constructing seven more houses to complete the project, offering a lifestyle that is incredibly appealing. “Young, hip urbanites. Young families. If they’re young, they at least feel young,” says Stephen of who they see living in the space. “People who want to balance work and play, because this place is like a residence and a resort at the same time.”

Victor’s family background and experience in construction came in handy when building the house over the ridge.

“Nowadays, with the way things are going in the Philippines, there is a focus on taking vacations, but not everybody has that chance. Not everybody can just take off whenever they want,” Victor adds. “I really don’t believe that a home is just your home, your vacation spot is just your vacation spot and your work place is just for work. I think you can have the best of all three, and this design incorporates that.”

“It’ll feel like you’re going home to a vacation every day,” Slater adds.

A pair of lounges by the pool makes for a perfect spot to enjoy the fresh mountain breeze and the unobstructed views.

Although these gents are focused on the Sky Houses for now, they look forward to bringing more of this brand of living to other locations. “We’re just looking for the right project, but I think the boys are in agreement that we really want to explore Cebu, particularly because this is the emerging market we want to be in. We just need to look for the right spot, and the right design,” Stephen says.

More than just creating modern and luxurious properties, YKC Premier hopes to change the perception of what living in Cebu can be. “That’s what we want to bring to Cebu,” Stephen shares. “I haven’t seen a development like this in Cebu, and a lot of the times I’d ask Slater, and he goes, oh no, the Cebuanos wouldn’t want to spend for something like this. I kept telling him that if we build it, they will come. Cebuanos are ready for something edgy and daring, and I think this project will be a testament to that.” With the first house already sold, that’s certainly been proven true. After all, with just one visit to the Sky House, it’s hard to imagine a better place to live.


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s February 2016 Real Estate Issue, “Defying Gravity” on pages 68-73.)

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The Homes of Zee

LOCKDOWN FUN: Whose Crib is This?

Here’s one way residents of Cebu’s exclusive villages created their own fun during zoom parties — guessing each other’s home! Of course, you need a smart mastermind to curate the photos to make sure the homes of each of the amigas are not easy to guess.

So, here’s a short tour of homes that was paraded during this very fun game. Homes are located in Maria Luisa, Northtown Homes, Beverly Hills and a beach house too.  Oh, and one came all the way from Scotland.

We hope your zoom parties are just as fun!

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